Dating service East Meet East raises $4M to develop AI matching and expand into Asia

East Meet East, a New York-based matchmaking service focused on connecting Asian people in the U.S., is expanding its focus to go after dating opportunities in Asia after it raised a $4 million Series A funding round.

The money comes from existing backer 500 Startups and new investors Asahi Medialab Ventures, DG Lab Fund (a joint effort from Japan’s Digital Garage and Daiwa Securities), Mobile Internet Capital, internet ad firm Septeni. The startup previously raised $1 million in November 2016.

East Meet Eat CEO Mariko Tokioka told TechCrunch in an interview that the company is testing a service in the Philippines with a view to expanding across other Southeast Asian markets, which could potentially include Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. The immediate next step would be a fuller launch in the Philippines — which was selected due to its close following of U.S. culture — with the potential for local offices to open in the region further down the line.

Unlike its core product in the U.S. — which matches Asian men and women; men pay but women use the service for free — East Meet East’s Southeast Asia-based offshoot is aimed at matching people of all races, hence it is called West East Dating.

“Matching Asian people in North America is still our main product, but 60 percent of the world’s population is in Asia so in order for us to become a much bigger company and help more people find their life partner, it makes sense to enter Asia,” Tokioka explained to TechCrunch.

Beyond the expansion, the company is also working to enable smarter matching. That’s where DG Lab Fund — which is backed by well-known Japanese firm Digital Garage, which has worked with the likes of Twitter and Square — comes into play.

DG Lab is developing an artificial intelligence engine in partnership with companies — a number of which it has invested in — and East Meet East is among those that signed up to provide data that enables the AI engine to learn and develop. (Tokioka pointed out that data is anonymized when we raised the question.)

So, essentially, DG Lab gets more data to crunch to build its smarts, and East Meet East gets an enhanced AI system that will help its product work better for users, in theory at least.

“Matching and AI are undoubtedly a natural fit. Users are constantly acting and interacting on the matching platform, which provides an abundance of data for Love.AI to refine its learning,” DG Lab Fund partner Masahito Okuma said in a statement.